Monday, February 2, 2009

Give Opera a Chance

The first time I attended an opera was in college. I wasn't particularly keen to go, but there was a boy involved. He really liked opera and I really liked him, so I thought I would give it a shot. We didn't last, but my fondness for opera has.

Before I attended my first opera, two things came to mind whenever I thought about opera: a sturdy women with fat braids and a Viking hat singing notes that could crack glass, and Elmer Fudd singing “Kill the Wabbit” in the Bugs Bunny opera cartoon. I expected to be bored to tears but figured that I could at least close my eyes and enjoy an evening of Strauss. I don't think I'm alone in my misconceptions about opera. It has the ill-deserved reputation of being an excruciatingly boring, snobbish activity that only the upper crust of society pretends to enjoy. I was shocked when I not only enjoyed the production, but laughed so hard that tears streamed down my face.

Since that first experience, I have found attending opera performances to be great fun. Really, opera is just a live soap opera sung in a different language. (The English translation is projected above the stage.) It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the writers for Days of Our Lives and As the World Turns are opera fans because opera plots are just as crazy as anything on daytime TV. Women pretending to be men pretending to be women, characters who are part human / part animal, curses, revenge, love triangles (or octagons in some cases): opera is chock-full of drama and intrigue, not to mention great music.

Knoxville Opera Company will be staging Rigoletto on the 13th and 15th of this month. If you haven't ever attended an opera, you ought to consider going. You will likely recognize many of the tunes even if you are not versed in opera. If you do attend, try to get seats that allow you to see into the orchestra pit. It's interesting to see the inner workings and, more often than not, something exciting happens behind the scenes. Last season a large set of orchestra chimes started to pitch over during a performance of Tosca. A bass player caught them and boosted them back up only to have them pitch the other way. It turns out they were off a caster. Our panicked percussion section was madly trying to right them while still counting rests.

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